Saturday, January 31, 2009, AM | Leave Comment
It definitely looks like the Great/Worst Depression of the 1930s. You see long lines of the newly laid off at the unemployment office everyday.
This month alone, several major companies, including Caterpillar, General Motors, Texas Instruments, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel and Pfizer brought the total of jobs shed so far this month to 187,550.
This happens to be more than November or December and well over double the number of January 2008, according to employment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
Between December 2007 and December 2008, 3.6 million jobs were lost, according to the latest unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those losses had already pushed December’s unemployment rate to a 16-year high of 7.2%. (The BLS will report January’s employment rate on Feb. 6).
In circumstances like these, either you are fearful to lose your job or have been handed over pink slip. Here are some ways to help you cope financially and get back on your own two feet.
Ask for a better severance package
By law, employers are not required to give you a severance package when you get laid off. Many employers do it anyway, out of the goodness of their heart.
In some companies, the severance package is two-week worth of your basic pay, period. But most employers base your severance on the employee’s length of service.
There is always room for negotiating a better package.
If you have only been working at your company for a year or two, there are ways to get a little more pay from your employer.
Don’t be bashful. You are being laid off anyway.
Unused vacation days
Ask that any unused vacation days get tacked onto your final paycheck, says Laura Moskowitz, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a nonprofit that helps low-wage workers and the unemployed.
Employers in 24 states – including California, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Illinois – are required by law to include unused vacation pay in an employee’s final paycheck, according to Workplace Fairness, a nonprofit promoting worker rights.
You can also try to do this with sick days, but it’s often a long shot. Unused sick days will not be included unless it’s mandated in an employment contract. So be sure to inquire about your employer’s policy.
More severance pay
If you have a stellar track record with the company, it’s also worth asking for more severance pay.
Ask for an extension of your health insurance.
File for unemployment benefits ASAP
Even while receiving a severance package from your employer, you are entitled to unemployment benefits. Just make sure to file for those benefits right away because once you apply, there is usually a few weeks lag time until the first check arrives.
The amount you receive in unemployment benefits is based on your old salary. Most states have a minimum and a maximum amount that they dole out depending on your salary, but the average weekly check is $300. You will also receive extended benefits.
Look for the most affordable health coverage
Losing your job usually means losing your health coverage. If you can’t sign onto a spouse’s employer-sponsored health plan, consider
Extending your previous coverage through COBRA. If you work at a company with more than 20 employees and lose your job, then you can extend your health coverage through COBRA for up to 18 months.
Buying an individual policy
If you have exhausted your COBRA coverage or simply don’t qualify for it, start shopping for an individual plan. Just keep in mind that private health-insurance policies can get pricey and may not always offer comprehensive coverage.
Compare health plans
To compare features and costs of available health plans, check your state’s health insurance department’s web site, eHealthInsurance.com.
Talk to head hunters
It might feel impossible to get a job in these extremely tough times. However, State and local governments offer free job training and search assistance at so-called one-stop career centers.
In a Nutshell
Granted these are extremely tough times, but the U.S. economy has always been extremely vibrant and constantly changing. There is always hope for a better day. As long as we are persistent and innovative in whatever we pursue in life, I think in the long run we will be successful.